The Centre for Independent Journalism is a non-profit organisation promoting media independence and freedom of expression in Malaysia.
CIVIL society organisations, including press freedom advocacy groups, have urged the government to drop all investigations against Al Jazeera over its controversial documentary on Malaysia.
The international broadcaster is facing investigations under the Penal Code and Sedition Act for its 20-minute film on illegal immigrants entitled Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown.
“We stand in solidarity with Al Jazeera and strongly condemn efforts by the state to intimidate and threaten media freedom and independence in Malaysia,” said the group in a joint statement today.
They said they are concerned with police investigations against the network for the alleged unfavourable reporting.
They added that the authorities should instead provide the public with an explanation or call for an internal investigation into potential misuse of power.
“The government should have instead held a press conference to provide a counter to the report.
“A credible action by the government when such news is released is to hold a press conference and provide a legitimate and reasonable counter or explanation in order to avoid being seen as benefiting from the whole government machinery for political ends,” the group said.
They added that actions against the press have systematically heightened since the change of government earlier this year.
They said investigations and charges using various laws levied against journalist Tashny Sukumaran, former radio deejay Patrick Teoh and CodeBlue editor-in-chief Boo Su-Lyn, among others.
The groups added that it is more paramount for the Perikatan Nasional government to support free media and to focus on sustaining the credibility of the state in the public eye, instead of silencing dissent or opinions that places the ruling regime in an unfavourable position.
“We remind the state and its leaders that media freedom and freedom of expression and speech underpins the fundamental right to seek and exchange ideas, opinions and information that would enable the public to form their own opinions and allow for dissenting or alternative positions, specifically on issues of public interest.”
This, the groups said, will aid in the promotion of good governance and in holding the state and its officials to higher account.
“We are seeing a spike in hate speech and threats of violence and harassment against foreign workers, exacerbated further after one interviewee in the Al Jazeera documentary was outed on social media for comments he made in the documentary,” they added.
The Immigration Department has since threatened to revoke the passes of foreign nationals who make inaccurate statements.
It is also looking for a Bangladeshi man featured in the documentary by Al Jazeera.
The department identified the man as Md Rayhan Kabir, 25, and his last-known address is a company in Jalan Loke Yew, Kuala Lumpur.
“To make matters worse, the Immigration Department yesterday released the individual’s name, passport number and last known address,” they said.
Since then, his personal information, including his purported phone number and Facebook account, has gone viral online, with a litany of hate comments and derogatory language directed at him.
The groups also urged the government to initiate an independent inquiry into possible mismanagement or abuse of power by state apparatus and officials in the handling of the raids targeted at migrant workers.
The statement was endorsed by 36 civil society groups involved in human rights activities and advocacy of press freedom along with 17 individuals including activists. – July 8, 2020.
Source: The Malaysian Insight